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Inside Privacy Updates on Developments in Global Privacy & Data Security from Covington & Burling LLP

House to Weigh Reauthorization of FTC’s Cross-Border Enforcement Authority

Posted in Congress, Federal Trade Commission

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) plans to introduce legislation to renew the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to take action against cross-border spam, spyware, and fraud.

Among other provisions, the U.S. SAFE WEB Act of 2006 gave the FTC authority to share information with foreign law-enforcement agencies, to take action against foreign conduct that is unfair or deceptive, and to obtain restitution on behalf of foreign victims.  The Act sunsets in December 2013.

Rep. Bono Mack’s discussion draft legislation would extend the Act for another seven years, resetting the Act’s expiration date to September 2020.  At a committee hearing yesterday, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) urged that the sunset clause be eliminated entirely, so that FTC’s authority and investigative tools would be permanent.  Although the FTC likewise called on Congress to repeal the sunset provision last year, the FTC’s testimony yesterday simply requested reauthorization of the SAFE WEB Act.  The testimony highlighted the FTC’s international enforcement efforts, which have included more than 100 investigations involving foreign targets, evidence, or assets and have enabled the FTC to collect over $10 million in restitution for injured consumers. 

The Representatives present at the hearing generally seemed supportive of reauthorization, although they asked a number of questions to explore issues such as the cost of cases pursued under the Act, whether the business community has raised any concerns about reauthorization, what measures the FTC has taken to combat illegal online pharmacies that operate in other jurisdictions, and whether there have been any complaints about foreign law enforcement agencies misusing shared information.